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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

My Month of May

I got news this month that I was successful in my application for a position as a technology coach. As a part of the negotiations, I was able to keep my long service leave, which means that I will start in July. Subsequently, I have spent this month at home with our newborn while my wife returns to work. It has been a fantastic experience, dropping my older daughter off at school each day and seemingly doing endless chores the rest of the time. Here was me thinking that I would get to watch Days of Our Lives each day.

In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:

  • Five Ways to Change the World Yesterday – This was a post I started a year ago and only just rediscovered it. The point was that blogging is not necessarily about my own ideas, but rather about being a conduit spreading ideas like a dandelion.
  • What Makes a Comment? – So often people claim that there has been a death of commenting, but instead I tried to explain that the conversation is no longer centralised as it once was.
  • TeachMeet10 – In lieu of the ten year anniversary of the first TeachMeet, Ewan McIntosh put out a request for stories, so I thought that I would share mine.
  • Data, Parents and Education – Building on a post I wrote about the use of Facebook in schools, I elaborated on some of the implications of edtech for parents.
  • What Type of Relationship Do You Have With Learners? – Inspired by a music documentary, I wondered about the relationship between learner and educator, compared with artist and producer.
  • A Guide to Blogging Platforms and their Niches – A summary of some of the different blogging services available, what they enable and where their biases lie.

Here then are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …

Learning and Teaching

Providing quality feedback in order to move students forward in their learning – Bianca Hewes elaborates on her use of feedback in the classroom focusing on medals and missions. She provides a range of useful examples to support this.

Being at a BYOD school, and being a recent devotee of Google Apps for Education, I have found that there are lots of ways to use technology to make students’ engagement with their Medals and Missions feedback even more effective.

Digital Portfolios: Moving Beyond the Glorified Scrapbook – Kelli Vogstad and Antonio Vendramin share their inquiry into digital portfolios and the lessons learnt. It provides some useful questions for everyone to consider.

Different parents want different things, but we believe all parents want to know if their children are learning and progressing. They want to know if their children are having difficulty and struggling in their learning. They want to know what the teacher is doing and what they as parents can do at home to help their children be more successful. And mostly, parents want to know that their children are cared for, safe and respected, and liked by others. Through thoughtful digital portfolio collections, parents can be reassured that the teacher really understands and knows their child and is helping them learn and succeed.

Learning (and Assessment) First–  Alex Quigley unpacks the question of assessment and what is needed in order to properly support learning.

Curriculum design, target setting, testing, work scrutiny, moderation, feedback, marking – we need to look again at all of these and ask whether they are actually aiding learning

Digital Citizenship: A Community Approach – Christine Haynes unpacks the challenge of digital citizenship, provides a range of resources to support teachers and parents to be safer online.

When technology was limited to computers in labs or family desktops, the urgency to teach digital citizenship wasn’t there. Now with phones in the hands of toddlers, the practice starts young.

7 ways to assess without testing – In light of the frenzy of testing that is going on at the moment all around the world, Steve Wheeler provides some alternative forms of assessment that do not involve testing. Along with Rachel Wilson’s piece on alternatives to NAPLAN, both posts add to the counter-narrative to the culture of standardised testing.

Children don't learn any more or any better because of standardised testing, unless there is feedback on how they can improve. But SATs seem to be the weapon of choice for many governments across the globe. It seems that little else matters but the metrics by which our political masters judge our schools.

10 Questions For Teacher Reflection – Insightful as always, Edna Sackson provides a list of questions to generate reflection.

We’re not even half way through the school year here, but a request from someone important to me on the other side of the world provokes my thinking… ‘Have you ever written a blog post on strategies, tools or frameworks that a teacher can use to reflect on their past year of teaching?’ My immediate response: ‘Reflection has to happen all the way along. It’s too late at the end of the year.’ But here are some questions to ask yourself, as you look back, look within and look forward…

How to Get Started Using Design Thinking in the Classroom – AJ Juliani provides a range of tips for introducing the use of Design Thinking into your classroom. This is a part of his new book LAUNCH which is his own take on the Design Thinking cycle.

The LAUNCH Cycle is not a formula. It is not a step-by-step guide to being creative. However, we’ve used the LAUNCH Cycle framework to make creativity an authentic experience time and time again in our classrooms.

Edtech

Why Aren't Students Allowed to Blog? – Peter DeWitt questions why we do not make better use of blogs to support learning. He provides a number of possibilities, including curation, media literacy, student voice, assessing learning, collaboration and artistic freedom.

If we want students to learn how to use technology effectively, then we should provide multiple avenues to do it.

Who is Investing in Edtech? – Audrey Watters provides a summary of the venture capitalists investing in educational technology. It is interesting to see how they interconnect within the range of products that make up their portfolio, but also how they connects with other investors.

One of the reasons I started my own startup database is that I was interested in questions beyond “who’s making the most investments” or even “who’s making the biggest investments.” Like, who’s invested regularly in companies that have had “successful exits”? Who hasn’t? Who hasn’t made any education investments at all lately? Which trends do investors seem to cluster around? How has that changed over time? Which education CEOs are investors in their own startups or in others?

Apple Stole My Music, No Seriously – James Pinkstone recounts his story of how in signing up to Apple Music his own personal library was transferred to the cloud and deleted from his hard drive. What was most interesting was that this included his own personal creations. Scarily, this is all covered within the terms and conditions.

Audacious. Egregious. Crazy. These are just some of the adjectives I used in my conversation with Amber.  She actually asked me how I wanted to move forward, putting the onus of a solution back on me. I understand why, too: she’s just as powerless as I am. I would love for Apple to face public backlash and financial ramifications for having taken advantage of its customers in such a brazen and unethical way, but Apple seems beyond reproach at this point. It took three representatives before I could even speak to someone who comprehended what I was saying, and even when she admitted to Apple’s shady practice, she was able to offer no solution besides “don’t use the product.” When our data is finally a full-blown utility, however, “just don’t use the product” will cease to be an option. Apple will be in control, bringing their 1984 commercial full circle into a tragic, oppressive iron.

Getting Started with Podcasts – Ian O’Byrne has been compiling a series of posts addressing everything there is to know to create your own podcast. He has addressed subscribing to a podcast, identifying a purpose, finding your voice, recording and editing.

Over the past year, podcasts have been experiencing a renaissance as an increased number of users tune in. Even more people are looking to join the chorus to create and share their own content online.

The End of Code – Jason Tanz explores the future of machine learning where the logic of the enlightenment is replaced with by a world of entanglement. This touches on the ongoing debate around coding. Interestingly it focuses on programming rather than coding.

In the same way that you don’t need to know HTML to build a website these days, you eventually won’t need a PhD to tap into the insane power of deep learning. Programming won’t be the sole domain of trained coders who have learned a series of arcane languages. It’ll be accessible to anyone who has ever taught a dog to roll over

I know how to program, but I don't know what to program – Nano Dano critiques the common approach when addressing programming that we need to start from scratch, instead it is suggested that we start by tinkering with something that already exists. I think that this is the strength of sites such as Scratch and Github which allow you to easily fork ideas. Dave Winer talks about building on prior art.

In the software community the general attitude is "don't reinvent the wheel." It's almost frowned upon if you rewrite a library when a mature and stable option exists. While it is a good rule in general, novices should not be afraid to reinvent the wheel. When it is done for learning or practice, it's totally OK to make a wheel! It is an important part of learning

66 Question Checklist for Rolling Out Google Apps – Eric Curts provides an extensive list of questions to consider why deciding to deploy Google Apps.

So it is easy to see why so many schools are adopting Google Apps for Education. However, what may not be as easy is the process of deploying Google Apps for your district. There are a lot of questions to consider, options to choose, and steps to take to get from start to finish in a complete roll out.

Artificial intelligence, cognitive systems and biosocial spaces of education – Ben Williamson delves into the world of educational AI. In this lengthy post he investigates different iterations from IBM and Pearson. What is interesting is that AI is very much a self-fulfilling prophecy. For another perspective on AI, check out Graham Brown-Martin’s post What does AI mean for Education?, while danah boyd addresses the challenges associated with bias in her argument that Facebook Must Be Accountable to the Public 

In brief, the biosocial process assumed by Pearson and IBM proceeds something like this:
> Neurotechnologies of brain imaging and simulation lead to new models and understandings of brain functioning and learning processes
> Models of brain functions are encoded in neural network algorithms and other cognitive and neurocomputational techniques
> Neurocomputational techniques are built-in to AIEd and cognitive systems applications for education
> AIEd and cognitive systems are embedded into the social environment of education institutions as ‘brain-targeted’ learning applications
> Educational environments are transformed into neuro-inspired, computer-augmented ‘brainy spaces’
> The brainy space of the educational environment interacts with human actors, getting ‘under the skin’ by becoming encoded in the embodied human learning brain
> Human brain functions are augmented, extended and optimized by machine intelligences

Storytelling and Reflection

Performance pay for teachers will create a culture of fear and isolation – Deborah Netolicky outlines the some of the problems associated with the Australian government's renewed call for performance pay. Along with Jon Andrews, Joel Alexander, Cameron Malcher and Corinne Campbell, they provide a thorough discussion of the topic. Sadly, in Victoria such discussions are not new. I have attempted to elaborate my concerns here and had also had a letter published.

The government wants to improve the quality of teachers and teaching in Australia, in order to improve the learning and achievement of Australian students. This is an admirable goal, but negative drivers of change such as performance pay for teachers, are toxic to education. Education reform needs to move away from a focus on performativity and accountability measures such as those outlined in the budget, and instead focus on trusting and supporting teachers.

Learning that Matters – Robert Schuetz explores the question of relevancy focusing on David Perkins notion of learning being lifeworthy.

Reimagining education means making lifeworthy learning a curricular priority. Perkins recommends keeping the dialogue positive and productive by identifying themes that generate great understandings. Start by asking what is important now and likely to be important in the future. No one can accurately predict the future but identifying trends and educating for the unknown moves learning towards greater relevance. In addition to igniting lifelong learning, we are at least better prepared for the unsolicited, “why do we have to learn this?”

Unlearning and Other Jedi Mind Tricks – Finding the (Creative) Force – Amy Burvall uses a series of gifs from Stars Wars to unpack some of the nuances associated with the creative process. If you have never read any of Burvall’s work, this is a great place to start.

Examine things from all angles, if you can. And most importantly, listen. Never stop listening.

The Five-Minute Dance Party – Emilie Garwitz shares how those activities that we can write-off as fun and frivolous are actually at the heart of the most important lessons we can learn.

Ask any successful person in business about their success and they will tell you that being comfortable with risk is one of the keys to unlocking their full potential. So, the earlier you become comfortable with taking risks, the easier it becomes later in life.

50 Shades of Open – Jeffrey Pomerantz and Robin Peek investigate what exactly is meant by the notion of ‘open’. They unpack ideas around open source, open access, open society, open knowledge, open government and open washing. A journal entry published at First Monday, this is one of those pieces that you can come back again and again.

This essay is probably only the opening gambit in attempts to disambiguate this term. We have merely opened the door on the many uses of the word ”open;“ as the use of the word grows, others must opine.

The Future of Work: Trends and Toolsets – Doug Belshaw shares a summary of a report he wrote exploring the future of work. He breaks this investigation down into four sub-themes: the demise of hierarchies, re-thinking the location of work, the rise of workplace chat and mission-based work. In addition to this, he created a document contiaining a plethora of further readings. I always find such conversations intriguing as to implications for education.

The main trends around the future of work seem to be broadly twofold: empowering individuals and teams to make their own decisions around technology; as well as, democratising the process of deciding what kind of work needs to be done

Panel Beaters – Jon Andrews provides a fantastic summary of the power and importance of coaching in his reflection on ResearchEd.

Coaching, for us, is NOT a cure to be administered or a tool to be manipulated. Rather, it is an offer, a partnership that is rooted in trust, respect and objectivity. It is a great privilege to partner with colleagues to drill down and explore the granularity of practice.

Is ‘pedagogical love’ the secret to Finland’s educational success? – Dr Tom Stehlik unpacks the seemingly mystical term of pedagogical love. This is one of those things I have thought about since I first read The Finnish Way. I wonder if in fact with need Heutagogical Love? That is, a love of learning and a passion for that?

Could we become a nation which is child-centred and in which every family respects the child and considers education the foundation to national prosperity, as well as personal wellbeing? Many Australian parents have a view of schools that has been coloured by their own experiences, often negative, so this would require a massive cultural shift in mindset. Could we ask Australian teachers to accept a lower salary and invest the funding balance into subsidised school meals instead? If we want to learn from the Finns, these are some of the questions that would need to be addressed at a macro level.


In a recent episode of TIDE Podcast, Doug Belshaw and Dai Barnes discussed the use of SAMR. A while back I wrote a post exploring SAMR. As a part of my investigation, I collected together a range of critiques. These are some of them:

I think that Richard Olsen sums the problem up best in a recent post on research when he makes the plea:

I know it is tempting to take notice of bad research and evidence which we agree with, but please don’t do it. We need to throw away all bad research even when we agree with the “evidence.”

READ WRITE RESPOND #005

So that is May for me, how about you? As always, interested to hear.

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